Posted by: APO | 7 May 2008

EAC ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS DISCUSS HARMONIZATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESSES

Arusha

6 May 2008

EAC ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS DISCUSS HARMONIZATION OF ELECTORAL PROCESSES

East African Community Headquarters, Arusha, 6 May 2008: The First Meeting of Heads of the National Electoral Commissions convened under the auspices of the East African Community ended here on Tuesday 6 May 2008. The meeting was attended by the Minister for Labour and Social Security Affairs of Burundi, Hon. Clotilde Niragira, the Chairman of Uganda Electoral Commission, Eng. Dr. Badru Kiggundu, the Vice Chairman of Electoral Commission of Kenya, Mr. Kihara Muttu, the Chairman of National Electoral Commission of The United Republic of Tanzania, Rtd. Justice Lewis M. Makame, the Chairman of Electoral Commission of Rwanda, Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa, the Senior Advisor in charge of Economic Affairs in the President’s Office of Burundi, Mr. Herman Tuyaga, and the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Political Federation, Ms. Beatrice Kiraso. Others were senior officials from the Commissions, Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the EAC Secretariat.

While welcoming the Delegates to the Headquarters of the EAC, the Deputy Secretary General (Political Federation), Ms. Beatrice Kiraso noted that the meeting was significant in setting the pace and structure of cooperation in political affairs including the consolidation of democracy, rule of law and adherence to the principles of good governance among the Partner States.

Ms. Beatrice Kiraso underscored the fundamental principles that guide attainment of the objectives of the Community as provided for under Articles 6 and 123 (3) (c) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community which provides for development and consolidation of democracy, respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights. She informed the Delegates that the meetings of Heads of National Human Rights Commissions and the Working Group on development of a regional framework on good governance were convened in February 2008. The outcome and recommendations of the two Meetings were presented to the 15th Meeting of the EAC Policy Organ; the Council of Ministers in March 2008. The Council noted that good governance is a concept which covers five pillars namely: democracy and rule of law; anti-corruption, ethics and integrity; social justice and equal opportunities; human rights and gender equality.

The Heads of National Electoral Commissions hailed the EAC Secretariat for the regional initiative and unanimously urged that their forum be formalised within the structures of the EAC so that they can take up their rightful mandate and role in the regional integration process.

The Meeting, which was chaired by Eng. Dr. Badru M. Kiggundu, brainstormed and shared information on the national policies, strategies and programmes towards democratization, specifically on the election processes with a view to harmonizing them. The Heads of Electoral Commissions considered the development of a regional policy on the role of the EAC in promoting democratic principles and practices and consolidating the culture of democracy and adherence to the rule of law. In this regard, the Heads of Electoral Commissions recommended to the Council of Ministers the formation of Heads of Electoral Commission’s Forum and incorporation of its activities in the EAC Programmes and Calendar of Activities. The role of such a forum would be mainly to initiate development of policies, strategies and programmes that promote the culture of democracy and adherence to the rule of law in East Africa; to harmonize the laws, policies and strategies of National Electoral Commissions with a view to sharing information, expertise and election materials; and to share and harmonize their electoral calendars and road maps. The Heads of Electoral Commissions also recommended to the Council the establishment of a Sub – Committee of experts comprising of representatives from the National Electoral Commissions and the Ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs/ Attorneys General to develop a draft policy framework that detail among others; the Electoral Commissions Forum for the EAC Partner States, the mandate and role of the Forum; the institutional framework and structure of the forum; and the relationship between the forum, the EAC and the National Electoral Commissions. The Heads of Electoral Commissions further recommended the need for the EAC Secretariat to commission a study on the cost of conducting elections in the Partner States with a view to reducing costs. The study would be conducted by the Partner States experts while borrowing best practices from among other African countries.

The Heads of Electoral Commission recommended the initiation and implementation of a regional capacity building project for strengthening political and governance institutions to entrench the culture of democracy, respect for the rule of law and peace in the region.

At the meeting, it was learnt that Burundi had no permanent Electoral Commission and that plans were underway to form one. It was reported that in Burundi a temporary National Independent Electoral Commission is normally formed within a period of four months prior to the elections.

 

BACKGROUND

 

The Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community provides for adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality as well as recognition of promotion and protection of human rights. By virtue of the provisions of the Treaty, democracy is construed as one of the fundamental principles for the achievement of the objectives of the Community. The EAC is mandated to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law in a manner that serves to achieve the objectives of the Community as envisaged by the Treaty.

 

The EAC Partner States have made milestones in consolidating democracy and the rule of law both at national and continental levels. At national level, Partner States have established impartial National Electoral Commissions charged with the responsibility of managing and supervising free and fair elections and referenda. At continental level, the EAC Partner States as members of the African Union, during the Eighth Ordinary Session of The Assembly, held In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 30 January 2007, endorsed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The main objective of the Charter is to entrench in the continent a political culture of change of power based on holding regular, free and fair elections and referenda conducted by competent, independent and impartial national electoral bodies. The Charter obliges the Regional Economic Communities to encourage member states to sign and ratify the Charter.

The EAC Council of Ministers at its 15th Meeting noted that pillars of good governance are interrelated and decided that a comprehensive regional framework on good governance should include democracy and rule of law; anti-corruption, ethics and integrity; social justice and equal opportunities; human rights and gender equality as provided for in Article 6 (d) of the Treaty. The Council directed the Secretariat to convene consultative meetings of the relevant sectors above to discuss with them on the agreeable and comprehensive regional framework on good governance for the East African Community.

Directorate of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs

EAC Secretariat


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